View the Hot San Diego Velodrome Action!

Editor’s Note: The following article was written by Robert Leone of the Knickerbikers, San Diego’s Bicycle Touring Club and board member at the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition

San Diego is blessed with the weather and infrastructure for a rich, vibrant, and diverse amateur athletics scene. For the cyclist or cycling fan, a jewel in the crown of our fair city and county’s riches is the San Diego Velodrome. This uncovered concrete oval, deep in the Morley Field Sports Complex (Mapquest map here), adjacent to Balboa Park, is conveniently located for easy pedaling locomotion from much of the City of San Diego’s Uptown area, including North Park and South Park.

Until the end of September, one of the highlights of the Velodrome’s calendar (see their website, above, for information about other events) is the Tuesday Night Racing series. A variety of track racing takes place, usually featuring a warm up motor paced sprint, starting at 6:30 PM. Race formats I’ve seen on Tuesday nights include points races.

Spectating is free! Garbage cans are available to accommodate the non-edible remains of your picnic dinner, should you bring one. Bleacher seating is available (see picture below).

San Diego Velodrom Bleachers. Photo by Robert Leone.

Spectators are not confined to the bleachers, though. The infield is available to privileged photographers (see photo, below). Amateur shutter snappers not operating for or in association with the San Diego Velodrome Association can use the walkway around the track to hone their picture composition and sports shooting skills, or just take pictures of their racing friends. Dogs on leashes are allowed at the velodrome, but are not allowed on the track or in the infield.

San Diego Velodrome Photographers. Photo by Robert Leone.

Again, there’s a variety of races on the oval on Tuesday nights. Sometimes they’re separated by age, sometimes by skill level. Track racing is a bit different from commuting — the track is banked, but those in no way compare to the typical San Diego hill casual and commuting riders tackle while crossing between neighborhoods. The bicycles themselves have no changing gears, or brakes! For safety’s sake, drop bars with plugged ends are standard steering. Below: Youthful riders on the rail, waiting for the start signal.

Velodrome Riders at the Rail. Photo by Robert Leone.

When I mention the Velodrome to people who’ve not been there, one of the most frequently asked questions is: “Can I ride there?” There are qualifiers for racing there, but that’s not what my friends are really asking about. They’re thinking of a definitely car-free area for practicing, training, or even teaching their children, and grandchildren, how to ride in a safe, very simple environment. Here’s the answer, freshly copied and pasted from the Velodrome Association’s frequently asked questions page.

The velodrome is intended to be primarily ridden on fixed gear bicycles, however freewheel type bikes may bee [sic] ridden on the track ONLY during recreational hours. Freewheel bikes are not allowed during any other times. If your bike has brakes, it is a freewheel type bicycle.

Please consult the San Diego Velodrome Association’s calendar for recreational and open riding times and dates.

I would like to mention, again, that San Diego’s amateur athletics scene is diverse. The last I was at the Velodrome, there were two sharply contested league soccer games in progress, underneath bright lights in nearby playing fields when I left. On top of that, athletics does not exhaust the area’s rich recreational and cultural resources, nocturnal or otherwise. The picture below is from a Monday night concert at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park .

Spreckels Organ Pavilion at Night. Photo by Robert Leone.